Lip Lock
by Susanna Carr
(Brava, $14.00 PG-13) ISBN 0-7582-1081-7
***
Is anyone else becoming slightly bored with “light, frothy, contemporary romance? Recognizable by their smart, mouthy heroines, too much clever repartee, and overpriced trade paperback size, more and more of these books are appearing each month as publishers jump on the bandwagon.

Lip Lock by Susanna Carr is saved from being lost in the crowd by virtue of its hard-working heroine, Molly Connors. Molly is desperately poor, living paycheck to paycheck and paying medical bills and the credit card bills her thieving ex-boyfriend left behind when he moved out on her. Because Molly knows how to work the return policies of her favorite boutiques, she constantly updates her wardrobe, which causes her co-workers to assume that Molly is a trust-fund baby. Little do they know that Molly has to scrounge for food in the employee lounge or else starve. Her world revolves around her boss, with whom Molly is secretly in love, and the date when she’ll finally get a performance review and a raise.

Kyle Ashton, Molly’s boss and love interest, knows that there’s something odd about Molly. He can’t quite decide if she’s merely brainless, or a pathological liar. Various scenarios indicate that she is one or the other, or both. Neither of these conditions keeps the blood from rushing to his pants whenever Molly is around, however.

The book begins with Molly being trapped inside a cabinet in the employee lounge while two of her superiors make very vocal love just inches away. What follows is a sort of twisted comedy of poverty when Molly’s financial situation steadily worsens, she is evicted from her home, and the promised pay increase never arrives. Somehow the desperate steps she takes just to stay warm and fed and clean keep putting her in embarrassing situations with Kyle. There’s also something funny going on at work which is ultimately blamed on Molly, and Kyle, feeling disappointed and disillusioned, fires her.

Molly and Kyle are terrific characters. The reader has to respect the way that although Molly really has no one to support her, and no money, she keeps trying to make things better, plugging away and working hard. Some of the solutions she finds to her problems are ingenious. When Molly’s belongings are thrown out of her apartment onto the street, she rents a truck, parks near work and lives out of it. Her motivation and thoughts are very clear – survive and somehow it’ll all work out eventually. Kyle’s character is much more complicated. He’s also a hard worker, having built his company from the ground up with a small group of friends. Bad experiences have made him distrustful and wary, and any hint of dishonesty makes him angry. Inside this shell, though, is a soft heart yearning for real affection and acceptance.

Molly doesn’t spend her time lusting after designer shoes, as is becoming cliché for contemporary heroines, but it would have been nice if she at least had an opportunity to do so. Molly’s hard luck becomes depressing after a while. Also, some of the extraordinary measures she has to take just to keep going border on the ridiculous and it felt like fun was being poked at her pitiful situation. Some scenes were so silly that they became unrealistic. Kyle’s acceptance of Molly’s antics also seemed unbelievable.

For a book published under Kensington’s Brava line, this book is surprisingly lukewarm in the sensuality department. Those readers who have come to expect at least an R rated book from Brava may be disappointed.

If you like your chick-lit to have a little bite to it, Lip Lock is the book for you. It has the sarcastic appeal of a good sit-com, but to enjoy it you have to be willing to suspend your disbelief.

--Wendy Livingston


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